A CHAT WITH: Keren Ilan
Soulful-pop songstress Keren Ilan recently released her debut EP, This Morning, Yesterday. Filled with four dreamlike and ambient tracks, Ilan leaves you wanting to hear more. The record is raw and touches on human emotions that we can all relate to at some points in our lives.
BEING BORN IN VIETNAM, CURRENTLY RESIDING IN ISRAEL, AND HAVING LIVED IN ITALY FOR TWO YEARS, WOULD YOU SAY THAT LIVING IN ALL THESE DIFFERENT COUNTRIES HAVE INFLUENCED THE WAY THAT YOU APPROACH YOUR MUSIC?
The fact I was born in Vietnam has a lot to do with how I approach my identity in front of people — how I look like is an integral part of my identity, especially in a place like Israel.
There are a lot of different people from different nations here, but I always felt different and needed to be different. Many times the need for my affiliation was due to writing, poetry or singing.
My attitude towards certain things had changed since I moved out of Israel; I was able to observe the reality I was living. I got to be around musicians in Florence and I saw many concerts all around Italy. After returning to Israel I had a feeling to search roots for my passion and search truth and I still seek for it since then.
WHAT CAME FIRST: LEARNING HOW TO PLAY AN INSTRUMENT OR SINGING? DID IT COME TO YOU NATURALLY?
First I sang! I love to sing and listening to music Karaoke Kid for years. When I picked up the guitar, I started covering bands and singers I like and it become integral.
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU REALISE THAT BEING A SINGER-SONGWRITER WAS THE PATH YOU WANTED TO TAKE?
Well, playing covers for people along the way was always in a matter of habit and I guess when I was in Italy I started communicate my original songs to other musicians and got nice feedback, and so I could have trusted in myself more.
WAS THERE A LOT OF SUPPORT FOR YOUR MUSIC AS YOUR WERE GROWING UP FROM YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS?
My family always thought it was brave and they liked how I sounded - although they aren’t the biggest music fans in general - therefore their opinions were probably based on supporting my thing. Friends or people who I sang to - they always flattered me but I wasn’t sure if that’s for sure although I knew that when I sang I found a nice place, and I feel comfortable in it.
YOUR SONGS HAVE A DREAMLIKE AMBIENCE SURROUNDING IT. DOES YOUR MUSIC TASTE MATCH THE MUSIC THAT YOU CREATE? WHO’S ON TOP OF YOUR LIST AS YOUR FAVOURITE ARTIST TODAY?
Honestly, I hear a looooot of music, from deep soul funk to psych folk-rock-indie or post punk. My album sound was influenced at that time by bands like Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Grizzly Bear and Angel Olsen. Also few lo-fi vibes by king Mac Demarco, Yellow Days and King Krule.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO COMPLETE THE EP?
The EP took about one year to be realised. Initially I was recoding two songs - ‘Take Her Down’ and ‘This Morning, Yesterday’ - with a different producer (Kotik), but then I moved to Italy and we stopped the process. When I got back to Israel, I did the new album from beginning in about 1 year with a different producer (Orel Tamuz).
DID YOU DO EVERYTHING IN THE EP — WRITING, PRODUCTION, RECORDING, MIXING, MASTERING, ETC.?
Lyrics, guitar, and melodies are mine - in the studio my producer Orel Tammuz played all instruments. It was mixed was by Noam Levinberg.
WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS? WHERE DOES WRITING A SONG BEGIN FOR YOU?
I write a lot, and when I play the guitar I have a basic idea for the song. I have plenty of notes and scribed thoughts. When I'm in a mood to create, I sit and play and try to fit words from everywhere to a song. In different cases when I’m feeling it - I can spill out a song in few minutes just to realise it. It starts from an emotional hole.
SINCE YOU BEGAN WRITING SONGS, WOULD YOU SAY THAT ANYTHING HAS SIGNIFICANTLY CHANGED IN THE WAY YOU APPROACH WRITING OVER THE YEARS? CAN YOU CREDIT ANYONE OR ANY EXPERIENCES FOR ANY CHANGES?
When I really started listening and searching for female singer-songwriters, something changed. I feel like it gave me confidence to let my words out. (I gotta say - find out Alice Phoebe Lou really made me wanna start this career).
IF THERE WAS ANYONE THAT YOU COULD WRITE A SONG WITH, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHAT ABOUT BEING IN A TOUR LINE-UP WITH?
I would love to collab with Patrick Watson and my dream these days is to meet Haley Heynderickx and be lined up with her.
HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN THE EP WAS FINALLY RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC?
Like giving birth to my grown self.
WHAT’S THE SIGNIFICANCE OF “THIS MORNING, YESTERDAY”? BEING THE LEADING SINGLE AND THE NAME OF THE EP.
For me "This Morning, Yesterday" talks about what I feel in a very simple and honest way. It will be relevant for me forever - as a reminder of a time I felt the need to change, and like the name, I feel like it represents an idea of how life is like a non-ending loop, again and again.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE OVERALL THEME AND MESSAGE OF THE EP TO NEW LISTENERS?
I would say the over all feeling I want new listeners to get is an identification for us being humans - making mistakes, having heart breaks and getting lost from time to time - it’s okay and it is all part of life.
OUT OF THE FOUR TRACKS IN THE EP, WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE AND WHY?
‘Lost’ is my favourite track. I wrote it while having a feeling I'm in the wrong place in life, my job and romantic life took a lot out of me - I got these half-cynical, half-sad lyrics in my head, and I remember I wrote it in about an hour.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU NEXT? DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS OF COMING TO LONDON OR THE UK?
I'm in the middle of making my second EP. I have plans to stay in Israel right now but I would definitely travel to London soon and in a few months will tour some countries in Europe hopefully! I’ll keep you updated.
Interview by Eethan Bello and Joana Pereira Carvalho